Monday, November 12, 2012

Foresthome: Llynmouth & the Queen's Lands

Continued from the previous section.  Click HERE to go back.
Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Llynmouth map
County of Llynmouth, map scale: 8 miles per hex


The county at the mouth of the Eastfollow River stands as one of the most powerful dominions in the kingdom.  Its present lord, Count Llynmouth, has been petitioning the queen for its elevation to a duchy, a quest he may yet succeed.  As a note in passing, many counts bear the names of their dominions, which isn’t customary in Alphatia.  The tradition comes from Cypric customs relying upon kin or family names in addition to one’s personal name.  Since Alphatians favor individual names, Foresthome counts often change theirs to that of dominions, appending them with numerals to connote their proper places in the land’s annals.  It is so that Fallwick of his original name took on the pseudonym Count Llynmouth, Thirty-Eighth Lord of the Line.  Should the county be elevated to a duchy, the beneficiary would change his name to Duke Llynmouth, First Lord of the Line.  Naturally, this could cause some confusion in the annals of the land, and thus names of proper pedigree are recorded with the appropriate coronet or crown symbol drawn above them, wherever they appear in the text.  Should one be touched, a brief ghostly vision lights up, depicting the lord in question turning toward the reader and uttering a historical quote, motto, or epitaph.  Leave it to Alphatians to come up with animated annals.

Two rivers cross the land, the Eastfollow River flowing from Llyn Lake and the Aragh flowing into it.  The former is a major river, allowing navigation by the largest ships.  Small vessels may navigate the Aragh up to Crowne-Feather.  Much of Llymouth’s wealth comes from merchant traffic on the Eastfollow and its nearby trail.  It is a point of contention with the League of Eight.  Because the merchant guild’s charter does not include the Eastfollow, the counts have made it a point to forbid league ships from sailing beyond Green Bay’s port.  Naturally, representatives of the count and of the guild often aim at each other bittersweet comments and dark looks.  Llynmouth is the county with the most leverage on the league.  Merchandise arriving in Green Bay must be unloaded at the port and picked up by another ship to continue from there, which gives the counts a great opportunity to inspect and collect duties.  Generally, the starboard side of a dock is reserved for lakebound ships while the opposite side accommodates riverbound vessels.  This is intended to facilitate ship-to-ship transfer of merchandise.  Major warehouses and granaries store the remainder.

Note from the Author:  the trail names probably should be edited on the map.  The Rathmore Trail should continue across the Anaragh toward Rathoon, while the one connecting with Taragor should be renamed accordingly.

Law in Llynmouth is definitely a notch above the nearby baronies or Tuttleby.  The county prefers natives of the Yannivey Islands as the mainstay for hired hands in charge of common police duties.  They are well trained for the job and particularly reliable (at least from the point of view of the counts), often communicating amongst them in their native vernacular.  They’re a rough bunch who aren’t easily intimidated, which explains why the League of Eight has so far avoided direct confrontation with the counts.  County troops often patrol the trails and otherwise concern themselves with the protection of the counts.


Llynmouth, due to its size, has to contend with commensurate challenges.  Although farming and urban population remains obedient and homogenous, essentially human with a halfling minority, several forests surround most of the county, including the Thumping Woods, the southern half of the Brierhills, and fringes of the Blackroot Forest.  The latter is the realm of a darker species of treants that can feed on the blood of the living.  For better or worse, “blackroots” are nonetheless denizens of the forests and have earned recognition as such among the kingdom.  They never leave the somber confines of their domain, relying on trusted druids as their representatives at the county’s Clan House.  Brierhills are home to other clans of bushmen, such as those inhabiting the nearby baronies.  Finally, the Thumping Woods harbor a unique race of creatures simply called woodsmen.  The name is meant literally, as these ogre-sized beings seem to be made of bendable wood and covered with smooth birch-like bark.  Woodsmen and bushmen are ancestral allies and sworn enemies of the blackroots.

Blackroot: AC2, HD 8***, MV 60’ (20’), AT 2 branches + blood drain, Dmg 2d6/2d6 + special, Save F8, ML9; Int 12, AL C.  Special Attacks: blood drain (-1 Strength; victims rise as forest wights); Special Defenses: immune to sleep, charm, mind- and plant-control effects.  Blackroots sometimes imprison their victims, keeping them alive for regular blood drains.  Greater Blackroots lead their clans, 16HD creatures with corresponding magic-user abilities heavily weighted toward necromantics.  Although treant-like beings, the latter possess statistics and abilities similar to odic spirits.  Blackroots can be Turned by clerics as vampires and odics.

Forest Wight*: AC5, HD 3**, MV 90’ (30’), AT 1 touch, Dmg energy drain, Save F3, ML12; Int 5, AL C.  Special Attacks: as per conventional wights; Special Defenses: immune to sleep, charm, mind- and plant-control effects (such as entangle spells); can operate during daylight.  Forest wights look entirely like bushmen although unable to speak or control plants around them.  They never leave the confines of their woods.  They normally stay dormant during the day, buried amid the forest ground until summoned or disturbed.  In the latter case, they rise from their natural graves and surprise the unwary (80% chance).  Their victims become forest wights within 1d4 days.  At sunrise, they sink back into the ground, leaving no trace of their existence, and feed upon the blood oozing from their blackroot overseers.

Woodsman: AC3, HD 4+1**, MV 90’ (30’), AT 1 large club, Dmg 2d4+2, Save F4, ML10; Int 10, AL L.  Special Attacks: Smash maneuver (see Fighter Combat Options) + possible knockout, stun, or delay effect (save vs. paralysis; Delay if saving throw failed by 1-2, Stun by 3-4, Knockout by 5+); Special Defenses: immune to sleep, charm, mind- and plant-control effects (such as entangle spells); mimicry which renders them invisible when standing still among trees.  Greater Treants act as clan leaders, 16 HD creatures with corresponding druidical spell abilities (despite their Lawful alignment).

Legends say that woodsmen are an offshoot of ancient treants, who grew human-like legs and arms.  They sprout roots at night while they sleep, drawing nutrients from the ground, and retract them at dawn.  They are also known to eat fallen leaves, nuts, and acorns, or drink water, if not fermented berry juices during celebrations.  Because of this, woodsmen are perfectly capable of venturing away from their forests into far less hospitable places, such as human towns or dungeons.  In a cold environment, they either go dormant or suffer a –2 penalty to Initiative.  They build villages from the remains of fallen trees, mud bricks, and grass, sometimes using great rocks as part of their structures.

Aside from their abilities, woodsmen live very long lives, perhaps as long as those of treants.  In the course of their breed’s existence, elves were encountered and befriended.  They fought a battle against a powerful invader from the north during which many fell.  It was tradition among woodsmen to share their sap, as blood-brothers would, and so, they offered to do the same with their elven allies.  It was a fateful gesture, as blood mixed with sap sometimes led to unexpected consequences.  Some of the woodsmen turned mad, twisted, and evil, and fled to the woods now known as the Blackroots Forest.  Some of the elves were altered differently, progressively becoming bushmen.  Since then, remaining elves moved on to pursue other aims and vanished from the annals of the land.  Woodsman clans
hit their great clubs against hollow tree trunks to communicate with each other at a distance, causing the familiar thumping heard in this forest.  The sound is intended not only as communication, but also as a way to unnerve and disorient an enemy as to where an attack may come, in addition to rousing any sleeping treants in the area.


Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Queen's Lands map
The Queen's Lands, map scale: 8 miles per hex


This crucial corner of Foresthome marks the starting point of the monarchy.  During the long years of struggles between forest clans and successive waves of outsiders encroaching upon their territories, one newcomer managed a lasting toehold.  Alphatians with a certain taste for nature and things of the wilderness established an outpost at the mouth of the Eastfollow River.  Relations with native clans were at first more than frosty.  Over the years, these eccentric newcomers eventually took the party of the clans against abuses perpetrated by other Alphatians from the north and the south.  What are now Imperial Territories already constituted a dangerous, monster infested wilderness that these renegade Alphatians were able to address to some degree.  Whether they harbored an ulterior motive or acted out of genuine unselfishness remains unclear to date.  Nonetheless, relations with nearby clans thawed and a dialog ensued.  At first, bushmen established trade rights which became a de-facto alliance.  Naturally, woodsmen followed, and from there, word got around by way of much thumping across the forest and lengthy treant mumbles passing from rustling crest to burrowing root and back through limb and acorn across valleys and over the hills until other clans learned of the new and auspicious happening.

Choices were made.  Bargains were struck.  Quarrels were settled.  Bows and wands were lowered.  Oaths were taken.  Treaties were signed.  And a crown was woven of gold and forever leaves at last to be placed upon the head of the one who’d pledged to defend them all.  Thus was born the United Kingdom of Foresthome, under the guidance and protection of an Alphatian monarch.

It was agreed that humans would inevitably come to settle in the area.  Rather than fighting continually against unending waves of a swelling sea, wisdom prevailed that its flow ought not be stopped but instead channeled around the forests, preserving them against the tide.  An Alphatian monarch would be better able to sway Alphatian people, as long as the Oath of Preservation was respected.  Open lands were conceded to enable the flow of human settlers, and laws were written to keep everyone in their proper places.  Such an immense kingdom demanded administrators to govern locally in the name of the king.  They were chosen among those closest to the throne, and land enfeoffed in the order of family statuses.  These vassals were Alphatians, like their monarch, for the same reasons and with the same duties.


The transition wasn’t that simple.  Not all clans fully trusted the human monarchy and its promises.  As a sign of good faith, it was agreed to allow the largest forest at the heart of the kingdom to govern itself while still remaining faithful to the crown.  Amendments were spelled out to balance the power of counts with those of the clans.  The last to join the realm were warrior tribes of the western grasslands and what are known today as the Marches of Ogresfell conquered at swordspoint to stem the horrors living deep below the crags.  While this took place, neighboring Alphatian powers grew as well, in particular Ar and Bettlellyn.  Foresthome’s monarchy was seen then as a renegade state.  During the formative years of the empire, many clashes took place as an attempt to strike down the sylvan power and seize its lands.  Alphatians who’d already settled there fought alongside the clans to defend their right and their property.  It sealed the people into a coherent nation, and the kingdom survived.  At last, the empire stabilized, and recognized Foresthome as a legitimate state.  It wasn’t so long afterward that the sylvan realm was welcomed as a respected member of the empire.

Much of the original monarchy’s wealth came from the deepwater port of Hepira, the old capital, and large silver mines in the Brierhills and the Frownsridge that are still active today.  Their shafts and tunnels reach far beneath the surface.  At first, the Alphatian outpost included the area surrounding Hepira, which later expanded southward along the Eastfollow River.  At its greatest extent before the unification, it included lands presently devoid of woods.  It incorporated bushmen woods when the new kingdom was founded, adopting its present size and shape.

Ever since the counties were established around Llyn Lake, trade has been booming along the river, at Hepira and Greenwood, the present capital.  The royal court moved there as a way to foster closer ties with bushman allies.  Duties and tolls are very low in the Queen’s Lands precisely to attract business and growth.  Trade around Llyn Lake was sluggish at first, as the towns were growing and lands were developing.  To accelerate the process, an early monarch founded the League of Eight.  In exchange for substantial infrastructure investments and shipbuilding on the part of financial backers, the monarch agreed to a permanent charter allowing the new guild many prerogatives, such as paying very low taxes to the royal treasury and virtual immunity from county laws.  Since the monarch in question was one of the financial backers, it didn’t seem like a problem at the time.  It quickly became and still is a very profitable operation.  Since then however, the charter has been a growing embarrassment, but since the crown still owns a significant share of the business, nothing changed.  In view of the threats looming at Foresthome’s doorstep, cash is very much an issue.  In past conflicts, the League of Eight has been useful as a source of loans and ships.  It helps explains why the successive monarchies tolerated the guild’s rather muscular business habits.  A point of contention remains in the decision of Llymouth counts to block League ships from accessing the Eastfollow River, this being one of the reasons why the county’s status wasn’t elevated to that of a duchy.

Law enforcement in the Queen Lands remains the direct responsibility of the Queen’s Army, although the Royal Guard reserves for itself the duty to ensure the security of the queen, and investigates any matter relevant to the palace, the court, or the monarchy.  The latter includes a small network of spies.  The Royal Guard, the Queen’s Army, and the Her Royal Majesty’s Navy answer to different commanders who take their orders from the queen herself.  Law in the forest is relevant to bushmen.  It is subject to their own customs, although the queen’s 
laws are enforced whenever possible.  The monarchy also relies on a Fellowship of Rangers who are warriors familiar with woodlands and who enjoy some druidical abilities.  Their mission is to assist the clans and act as their representatives in Clan House meetings, if requested, or as the crown’s representatives among clan lands.  Part-hunters, diplomats, and wisemen, these warriors wield a tremendous amount of trust, usually spending years learning a clan’s ways before gaining their confidence.  Many identify with their assigned clans, although their allegiance remains to the crown.  Theirs is a thankless task when confronted with a conflict of interest.  Occasionally, some “go native” entirely, and are stricken from the fellowship’s records, though they may still act as their clan’s representative.  Rangers are also responsible for monitoring the respect of laws regulating encroachment upon the woodlands, or an unwarranted expansion of wooden areas.  They also watch borders in wilderness areas, usually looking for monstrous activity.


Foresthome Ranger are fighters or elves with special skills including tracking, awareness, clan lore, druidical spells, and clan powers.  Their alignments must match their associated clans (in other words, they can be Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic).  Naturally, the fellowship knows what rangers to assign which clans for best results.  If rangers are allowed as player characters, a –20% penalty applies to all to earned experience.  Prime-requisites are Strength and Wisdom.

Tracking: the base chance to follow a set of footsteps is 65%.  Five factors can be rated from easiest to hardest, which then modify chances of success.

   

  • Terrain: A. soft soil; B. grass and bushes, C. hard-packed dirt or dusty stone; D. stone surface or swampland; E. through a secret passage.
  • Num.: the number of individuals tracked.
  • Size: refers to the size of the creature(s) tracked, from very large to very small.
  • Time: the number of days or partial days that have elapsed since tracks were left.
  • Precip.: the number of hours rainfall or snowfall lasted, if any (or wind in a sandy desert).

Tally bonuses and penalties listed in the last column (Difficulty Rating) for each of the five factors, and apply them to the base 65% chance.  If the ranger’s percentile roll scores equal or less than the modified chances, the tracking attempt succeeds.  The target score cannot be any higher than 99% or lower than 1% regardless of modifiers.

Awareness: Rangers are only surprised with a 1 on a d6.

Clan Lore: is a Wisdom-based skill that enables a ranger to know customs, traditions, and the historical background of the chosen/assigned clan.  If warriors of the clan have a bonus to their attacks against a hated foe, the ranger benefits from it as well (no skill roll needed).

Druidical Spells: rangers can cast druidical spells as clerics one third their experience levels (i.e. level 1 spells at their third experience level, etc.) regardless of their actual alignments.

Clan Powers: subject to DM moderation, a 10th level ranger may learn one special defense available to clan members, if any.  One more may be learned for each additional 5 experience levels.  Special attack can only be learned if all defensive abilities have already been mastered.

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